1-4 players, Cooperative, Story-Based Exploration
Designed by: Frank West
Artwork by: Miguel Da Silva
Published by: The City of Games
Review of Deluxe Edition which includes 4 anti-knock sheets for the player sheets, 2 quick set up trays for components, added “dexterity” quest cards, wooden resource tokens and extra equipment cards and creature factions.
Overview of Gameplay
In The City of Kings you will be partaking in a series of story based adventures exploring a tile based variable map trying to achieve a specific goal that is stated on your specific story card. Each player controls a different character and a single worker unit starting out. You will read the bit of story on the story card first to get a nice general idea of the situation and then set out to perform the required task it has listed. From there you will be using your character and worker unit’s stats on your player sheet to move, explore new tiles, attack enemies, harvest resources, and perform special abilities amongst other things. As you kill more and more monsters you will level up which in turn increase your characters and workers stats. Once you perform your required quest, you then draw the next story card and repeat with the next quest. There are 4 main quests in each story with added Heroic and Legendary quests to complete if you are up to the challenge.
Win Condition /Length
To win you must go through each chapter of the overall story you are playing and complete the required task it has listed such as defeat a certain enemy boss or build up a fort. There are four tasks (6 with the added heroic and legendary) per story and 7 stories to make your way through so there is a ton of content here. Also there are basic scenarios that you can do that can be done separate from the ongoing storyline if you wish.
A typical 2 player game that consists of doing just one complete story with the four chapters will take you about an hour to an hour and a half. This could vary depending on how many creatures you have out and have to manage. The turns are surprisingly fast when there are no creatures out as you just whip your actions out and then move the time tracker forward. Once you get a couple creatures out though you will have the added step of going through whatever abilities they have, although they are pretty quick as well if they are not in line of sight of a player.
Personally speaking I really enjoyed the win conditions. With a market FULL of VP based win conditions in games I always enjoy a good game that has varying specific tasks to perform in order to win. Also you could easily lose a day getting enthralled with this game. Once you beat those first 4 chapters, you will want to at least try for the heroic and legendary chapters if only to see what happens next in the story.
This is a game that has a bunch of tokens, luckily the deluxe edition comes with a couple plastic trays to hold all this stuff for easy setup in that area. The game once all setup will take up a decent amount of real estate on your table and I’ve found you really only need one of the trays of components on the table when playing as the second tray primarily just holds the individual player tokens that you will remove at the onset.
Board setup is detailed on the very first story card you draw showing which tiles to use and shuffle and how to place them on the table. You also have to set up a few different decks of shuffled cards with space next to each to form the prospective markets for those cards. Also the character sheets are HUGE and will take up a good deal of space. Slap the anti-knock sheet on top of those and add your wooden pegs to track your stats. Lastly but not leastly you will need a spot to set all the creature tokens and tiles. These will need to be set up in order based on your story and stacked somewhere for easy access when you encounter a creature on the board.
Take down is much the same although you will want to bag up the cards and any other items that you want to keep organized and together such as the creature tiles based around player count. Trust me you don’t want to sort through that massive pile every time you play the game. Luckily the game did come included with some plastic baggies as well.
The deluxe version comes included with some VERY nice wooden resources tokens in the shape and color of their respective resources. The dice are of a very nice quality as well and are a little oversized and hefty which I like and have imbedded symbols that are painted. All the cards have a linen finish and are of a good thickness and feel premium. The story cards in particular are oversized and I just love the way they look and feel. I REALLY appreciate the anti-knock trays for the character sheets and in my opinion are a must have when playing this game. There are so many stats to be tracking with the little wooden pegs and I could see these massive character sheets getting knocked super easily. Think Terraforming Mars X10.
Speaking of the character sheets, I will say that I love the way they look and I’m not sure how it can be done considering the sheer amount of info on the sheets BUT they are just too big for my taste. I mean they look awesome and I hate knocking them because they work wonderfully but man, these things are large. The font size used on them is rather small as well so I have to really look to know what I’m looking for although I have found the anti-knock sheet does seem to enlarge or enhance the wording a bit so that helps a great deal.
The game board itself is pretty interesting as there is an L-shaped board that represents the City of Kings itself and you place the tiles within that “L” to represent the surrounding lands that you will explore. The L board also has the stats for your experience and Hope and Morale trackers. The tiles that make up the game are of a nice thickness as well and feel very sturdy.
The box is pretty large although you should be able to toss in in your shelf laying down on its side. There is no included insert so everything will sit in the box either bagged up or, as with the tokens, in the included trays. I can tell you this game is one you will want to get an insert for in the long run. When you first open the box and see the tons of bags of stuff that you need to setup not including the tokens in the trays, it’s a tad overwhelming. The box itself is VERY nice with a glossy look to the words and emblems and it has a good thickness and feel very sturdy.
Visual Appeal /Theme
Visually the game is stunning. The artwork and colors are gorgeous and fit the theme very well. The world that was created for this game is incredible as well and really does an amazing job of drawing you into it. I found myself craving to read ahead on the story cards just to see what happens. And the way the story is intertwined into the gameplay does a great job of pulling you into the world. Highly impressed in this area.
I’m not going to lie, this is the best rulebook I have ever laid my eyes on. When you first get all the components laid out you stand there and just think, “Good gravy this is going to be a beast to learn”. Nothing could be the furthest from the truth in this case. This game does such an incredible job at explaining the game and how to play it that frankly it astounds me. This rulebook has set the bar for all rulebooks in my eyes. I went through this thing one time and didn’t have to go back. That said there are a TON of different abilities for the creatures you will encounter. Luckily there is a separate book made specifically for those abilities that you can reference. I always keep that out as during any game you will encounter a plethora of different abilities.
Table Talk/Fun Factor
There is a decent amount of strategy that goes into the battles with the creatures so playing multiplayer you will generate some table talk discussing that. It’s usually based around where to move and how much damage will the beast do etc. The map itself is unrevealed so you can also discuss possibilities on where you want to move your individual workers and plan on what they are going to work towards as far as gathering resources. However it really boils down to you really focusing on your own character as they are very deep individuals once you start leveling them up and gaining new abilities. So as the game progresses into the longer stories, the more you will slip into your own little world trying to manage your character.
That being said the game is SUPER fun. The first time I played it I spent a day going through the first 3 stories (I died on the very first one learning the fight mechanics). I attribute a lot of that fun factor to the great story and how it ties to the gameplay. I got so invested in what was going to happen I just didn’t want to quit playing. If you can find a group that appreciates good story telling in a board game then you have a winner with this game.
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
I think two players is a good choice for this one. When playing solo you still have to control two characters yourself and as I mentioned earlier they can get pretty deep trying to keep track of their stats and their worker/s and skillset. However I have played it solo and do very much enjoy it, in fact that first day I played it all day was solo and I was in love. But playing with two players gives you the freedom of only having to worry about YOUR character and worker. And what’s more is that leveling up is done as a team so neither player will have to worry about being too weak to fight later enemies if they didn’t gather enough experience.
Playing any more players than that and I think the wait between turns would get too long, especially with AP prone players. The game length is already around an hour and a half whether solo or two players which is a good time for a game and adding more would most certainly equate to a longer game as well.
The Fuzzy Llama Silver Seal of Distinction
Positive Final Thoughts
I really, really enjoy this game. Going through the story is thrilling and a blast and the artwork and style is fantastic throughout. There are like 100 side quest cards I didn’t even mention above that just add even more stuff to do while working towards your ultimate goal which adds even more flavor to the story. The leveling up your character and equipping them with gear actually feels like you are playing an RPG videogame akin to old World of Warcraft. And the rulebook and components are outstanding.
Of the different editions I would highly recommend the deluxe version if only for the anti-knock sheets. I honestly cannot imagine playing the game without those with all the tiny square wooden pieces you have to set in specific spots on the sheets. To be honest I would probably rate the game lower if I didn’t have these deluxe components. The wooden resource tokens are spectacular as well and the trays are very helpful with setup and keeping tokens organized.
Negative Final Thoughts
The main small quibble I have is the lack of a good insert. The game is pretty massive with lots of cards and other odds and ends galore. And as much fun as I have been having with the game I can for sure see myself breaking it out a lot to play. A nice insert would make that setup and take down the cat’s meow.